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Technology Enabled Bastard Bosses

To record some of the Churchill Club sessions, we decided to invest in a digital voice recorder.  We purchased the Olympus WS-331M [ pls link to ], which is a tiny little device capable of pickup up most speakers in a conference.  While fiddling with it to determine what it can and can’t do, we discovered that it is slim, silent and powerful enough to slip unnoticed into a shirt pocket and record conversations.  We can then plug it straight into the PC and treat it as a USB Memory stick to store conversations in WMA format.

Kind of cool; I could be nasty and record conversations with staff on the sly.  Which then made me start to wonder, what technology is now available to use if I truly were a bastard boss.

Now I am not making any recommendations on how you should go about your business, or even the legal status, but looking around, I came up with some nasty uses of technology which I thought I’d share.

In the Car


Sat Nav and GPS are now readily available as either aftermarket or part of the standard package of vehicles.  This technology, although handy of the average punter, can also be used by the bastard boss.  Companies such as Quicktrack [ link to  ] and GPS for Fleet [ Link to  ] allow you to know where your vehicles are at all times.

Black Boxes
In the trucking industry, vehicles have been monitored for more than just location for some time.  Products such as Environav [ Link to ] let you look at anything you want to that has a sensor attached, such speed, engine speed, time of use, deviation from routes.  This technology is now starting to be packaged standard into some vehicles [ link to  ].  So you can monitor your staff at all times when they are out and about, and can get SMS or email notifications when they are not behaving themselves in your vehicle.

On foot?
Of course if you want to know where your people are once they have got out of the car, why not try the Benefon Track 1 mobile phone.  It may not have a camera or sweet multimedia capabilities, but it does have a built in GPS device.  Lets you know where your people are within 50 metres.  Which could be disappointing for staff, if they tell you they are looking for a parking spot, when it turns out they are still at home.

In the Office

Office Cam
Anywhere you have power, you can now put a wireless IP camera such as this d-link job [ link to ] .  Connect this camera to your wireless network, and you can view (or record!)  what’s happening from anywhere in the world.  In fact I know someone that drove his staff wild, by constantly watching his programmer’s effectiveness, every time he went on a sales trip to the US.

Personally, I have used the wireless IP camera to show me whether there was a spare guest parking spot, when I had visitors coming (two flights of stairs, was too much for me).

For around the $300 mark, you get a nice solution.  Add another $1000 and you get a camera that you will be able to pan, zoom and tilt.

Of course if you want to run a time clock without it seeming you are running a time clock, you can also equip your staff with security passes that contain RFID tags.  [ ] you can then passively monitor what time people are arriving and leaving as well as how much time they are spending in areas such as the lunchroom or out for a smoke.

I actually met someone some years ago, that had been terminated for lying on his timesheet (his rfid tag record for the parking lot didn’t match the project timesheets he was filling out).

On the Phone
In Office
Now while your staff are in the office and being productive, you can have a good look at their phone patterns.  If your telephone system runs through a PABX that was made in the last ten years, you can almost guarantee that a log pf every single call is recorded, including the handset, number called and data/time stamps.  Useful if the Bastard Boss tires of someone whom is constantly yakking to their friends.

Normally the information can be extracted into an excel spreadsheet.

However, if you are using a really new PABX [ link to  ] that runs on internet protocols,  the easiest thing to do, if you are filled full of distrust, is configure your phone system to record every conversation to a computer server for you’re later review.

This is even easier if you are using a virtual PABX [ link to  ](a computer pretending to be the PABX)

If your staff are out and about using your mobile phones, you can of course get the bill in either paper and/or electronic format.  But did you know if getting the bills in electronic format, you can also suck all information from the bill into an excel spreadsheet.

A couple of bills and voila, you can a database of most called numbers, percentage used afterhours, amount of time and cost of an employee regularly ringing a girlfriend.  In fact if you ring a couple of the most used numbers, you may be surprised to find a competitor answering.

On the Computer


Now you have probably noticed that on your standard windows computer, you can have a couple of different user accounts, and each of these users can be of a different type.  So what does this mean?

Well, if you don’t allow people to be an administrator on their own computer, it means they can’t install any nasty foreign software that they find on the internet.  Better yet, you can setup their account so that they can only store information centrally on a file server rather than on their own computer.  You can then review their work at your leisure.


You have probably read about nasty software on the internet such as spyware [ link to  ] and keyloggers [ link to ].

Spyware isn’t normally called spyware when its being sold.  It usually goes under the name of Monitoring software [ link to ], with rationale’s such as use this for invisibly monitoring your children.  It can record all websites visited, instant messages sent and programs run.  It will even take regular screenshots and email them to you if you like.

Keyloggers capture all that’s being typed into a keyboard, and can either store it or send it out automatically to a predefined location.  Most available keyloggers [ link to ] can be tried out for free, but you have to pay a small fee to make them invisible.

On the Internet

Proxy Server

Most users of the office network don’t realize that their internet access goes through a computer called a proxy server.  The most popular is called Squid Cache [ link to ]  The point of a proxy server is to store a copy of a webpage, in the likely event that someone will want the same page almost immediately, and thus reduce the amount of data a company has to buy, and the load on the network.

A side affect of the proxy server achieving this is that it keeps a log of your IP address and the web page you have requested.  Therefore, if you are surfing to   its highly likely that your network administrators already know and are laughing at you.

Of course, if you are running a decent firewall  [ link to ], you already have the ability to monitor all web traffic, stop instant messaging, and block user access to any website you don’t like the look of.  Good bye Facebook.

But did you know that firewall solutions can also be used to inspect every email, and block images, jokes or anything else you don’t like, including attached images with too much skin tones inside the picture.

Mail Marshall [ link to ] has an interesting paper on the issue of “leakage” of proprietary and confidential data.  Basically staff sending either information home or to competitors or their next employer.  A recent (2006) FBI survey found that 68% of their respondents found it to be a current issue.  Firewall’s can notify you every time a company document leaves your premises and block it if desired.

Mail Server
Many companies run mail servers either on their own network or using a third parties.  Mail servers can do a lot more than just send and receive email.  For instance you can have the mail server send a copy of company policies to every user on a monthly basis.  No one then gets the chance to say…….” I didn’t know “

Google Alerts
Shouldn’t ever forget Google alerts, when your employees go home and blog about their day at the office from their own computer, its nice to know what they are saying.  If you are a bit paranoid, setup an alert on your company name and your own name.  I must admit I have come across a temp on a working holiday, telling his mates in the UK what a slack time he was having at his employers.  Unfortunately he used their name and they quickly terminated him.

Using the Printer
Finally, here is a nice piece of software I found for “Informed Printing”  [ Link to ].  This piece of technology will not only audit how much each person is costing you on the printer, but generate a popup everytime thy print, telling the how much their print job will cost, and offering cheaper options.

Its called “Involve your company’s users in the print cost-savings initiative”.  Bastard Bosses have got to be happy with that.